Lucy Beaumont: ‘Yes I’m Jon Richardson’s wife – but I was a stand-up first’

As her new tour kicks off, the comedian talks starting stand-up, misogyny in the TV world and appearing on 'Taskmaster'

Taskmaster, the comedy game show now in its 16th series, has a unique ability to reveal its contestants’ true personalities.

While panel and talk shows allow people to filter themselves, something about the idiosyncratic tasks – building a tower of tin cans while blindfolded, rolling a giant yellow duck into a lake without touching its beak – strips comedians back to their essence.

When Lucy Beaumont – starring in the current series alongside Julian Clary, Sam Campbell, Susan Wokoma and Sue Perkins – watched footage of her tasks, she saw herself clearly. “I come across as unhinged, nervous, unbalanced. I do a lot of digging, a lot of quite animalistic things. That was my true personality: a small, feral woman.”

Beaumont, 40, is no stranger to inviting the public into her life. In Meet the Richardsons, the Dave mockumentary she writes and also stars in alongside her husband, the comedian Jon Richardson, the couple invite us into their Yorkshire home and recreate stuff that’s really happened. It brings a Curb Your Enthusiasm energy to recreations of the couple’s everyday arguments, awkward interactions with other celebrities, and a growing friendship with their real-life neighbours.

Their Channel 4 panel show Odd Couples, in which Beaumont and Richardson pit two celeb couples against each other, builds on that with their charming squabbles at the heart of the humour. But Taskmaster might be the first time a lot of their fans will get to know Beaumont on her own – despite the fact she was an acclaimed actor, comedian and writer long before she got married.

Meet The Richardsons - Series 4 - Episode 3 Picture shows: Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont in the department store TV still Dave UKTV
Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont on season four of Meet the Richardsons (Photo: Vishal Sharma/Dave UKTV)

“We went to Center Parcs and there was a woman in the toilet who said, ‘Can I just say, in’t it lovely that Jon lets you be on his shows?’” Beaumont remembers. “If you see me as Jon’s wife, I don’t mind. But I was a stand-up before.”

Comedy wasn’t Beaumont’s original plan. She grew up in Hull, raised by a single mother who always urged her to pursue her creative ambitions, and studied drama at the city’s university. In her late twenties, she had been “living the dream”, acting in regional theatre, including at the local Hull Truck theatre. But when the recession hit, things changed. “Theatres either closed or wouldn’t commission original work anymore. A lot of theatres suddenly wanted TV actors.”

Beaumont was passed over for a couple of roles, subjected to smallminded comments (“an actor’s husband said, and this crushed me, ‘You’re never going to play Juliet at the RSC with your accent’”), then told by a casting director that they were looking for comedians who could act. She’d always been told she was funny. Auditioning for TV parts, she’d accidentally turn drama into comedy: “I went to one for Casualty, an audition for this woman who’d had a horrific accident, and they were in floods of tears laughing at me.” In 2011, she decided to try stand-up for the first time.

Beaumont entered the annual So You Think You’re Funny comedy competition with a collection of anecdotes. Beaumont’s act, like her sitcom, has always drawn on her own life – a crow landing on her head and a stranger sticking a Wagon Wheel to her forehead provided her first jokes. “It’s all real,” she says.

She made it to the final. The following year, she won the BBC New Comedy Award. When she took her debut show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014, it was shortlisted for Best Newcomer. Her jokes found joy and the surreal in the everyday, moving between silly puns and surprising double punchlines with ease.

Meet The Richardsons - Series 3 - Episode 4 Picture shows: Lucy Beaumont TV still UKTV
Lucy Beaumont started doing stand-up comedy in 2011 (Photo: UKTV)

“Then I just didn’t stop. I became obsessed with it,” she says. “There’s a weird thing where even before you go on stage, you hear an audience and know if you’re going to connect with them. When you do, it can be like music. Your timing’s perfect. Their timing’s perfect. You have this flow between you where it’s like nothing else.”

But she suffered terribly from nerves. “It felt like every time you walked on stage you were walking off a cliff. I just used to shake. I had to bring it into my persona.”

Those nerves were exacerbated by the way women in comedy were treated. When Beaumont started out, “The misogyny was mad. When I would go on stage, a lot of the audience would go to the toilet or get a drink,” she says. “I couldn’t get gigs, they’d say ‘We’ve booked a woman this month’.”

When she toured her 2014 show, interviewees constantly asked ‘Are women as funny as men?’ Beaumont says. “It got in my head. I had terrible self-doubt. It really affected me.” She changed how she presented herself. “I used to take my make-up off before I went on stage and put on a hoodie. If I didn’t, I was getting things shouted at me like ‘Get your tits out’. It just made me more and more nervous.”

So she is delighted that a decade later, there are more women than ever on the live scene. Right now, she loves Micky Overman, Lou Conran and Eleanor Tiernan. “I think: why aren’t you on TV?”

Because she still finds herself surrounded by men on TV shows. “It’s not that I don’t find male comics funny, but you can feel quite isolated,” she says. “The last five or six panel shows, I’ve been the only woman.” It’s an issue one would hope had been solved long ago – it’s been nine years since the BBC ruled it would make no more all-male panel shows. But recent statistics show equality is still far off, thanks in part to legacy male hosts and team captains, plus a persisting practice of hiring female celebrities in place of comedians.

A combination of all this, plus her desire to start a family, led Beaumont to focus more on writing. Her mum Gill (who also appears in Meet the Richardsons, which is onto its fourth series) is a writer, but found it difficult to crack the industry. “Because my mum struggled, I knew what a massive honour it was to get commissioned, so I poured a lot of work into it.”

She wrote on three series of Radio 4’s To Hull and Back, on sitcom Hullraisers, and Meet the Richardsons. It’s allowed her to live in Yorkshire and be at home more, but there are challenges. “I found it hard after having a baby to get back into TV, because if you stop working, someone else will take your place.”

It meant Beaumont had less time for stand-up, but she didn’t stop completely. She and Richardson run regular charity comedy nights around Yorkshire. “It’s something I’m really proud of. It’s only an evening of our time, but you can raise thousands.”

Beaumont has a strong moral compass and knows what it’s like to struggle for money – she was granted a place for working-class students at her local university, had to skip train fares to get to auditions, and worked as a teaching assistant alongside comedy. She often speaks about injustices like child poverty and rogue landlords, and raises funds to help, including setting up her own charity Backpack Buddies to help children experiencing food poverty.

Now, she has the time and space to get back on stage more regularly. Her new tour, The Trouble and Strife, has just set off around the UK. She promises it’s packed with more of her weirdest anecdotes – from watching a gardening programme with a butler in the buff, to tricking a policeman into believing she was a detective.

Taskmaster Series 16, Episode 2 TV still Channel 4
Taskmaster Series 16 (Photo: Channel 4)

Although, as the title suggests, there’s the odd mention of Richardson and her marriage, it’s a reintroduction to who she is now, as a 40-year-old woman released from some of the anxieties that plagued her youth. “It’s totally freeing,” she says. “When I was starting out it was all about proving yourself. Now people have already decided: you’re funny.”

It means that stand-up is making her happier than ever. “You’ve got a responsibility,” she says. “I feel it more than ever because things are really hard, everyone is a bit deflated. But that’s great for comedy because people want a laugh.”

She felt the responsibility to please during the filming of Taskmaster, too. “Alex [Horne, Taskmaster creator and co-presenter] sort of watches you. You feel like you’re letting him down,” she says. “I always felt: there’s an intelligent way of doing this and I don’t know what it is.” It didn’t matter though: “We were immersed in play. You don’t really get that chance as an adult to play. It was therapeutic.”

Beaumont used to consider herself an alternative comic. She was nervous, she always carried a little handbag onto stage after once doing it by accident and getting a big laugh, “I was very wacky”. Her career as a writer and sitcom star took her into the mainstream, but Taskmaster is bringing her back to her roots. “It can be hard to get your style on TV, but if you have a skewed way of looking at things, it’s great for you.”

And for Beaumont, “It’s really nice showing your personality. That you’re not just someone’s wife.”

The Trouble and Strife is touring the UK until 10 December,, Taskmaster is on Channel 4 on Thursdays at 9pm, Meet the Richardsons is streaming on UKTV Play